By Sarah Mac Donald - 07 April, 2020
On the night that the priests of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin should have been publicly renewing their priestly promises, their bishop revealed that 58 were cocooned, leaving 47 to witness on the frontline.
In the Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow Bishop Denis Nulty celebrated the Chrism Mass and told all his priests they were in his prayers.
The Chrism Mass would usually be the night when the diocese in its fullness: priests, religious, deacons and lay people celebrated together, he noted.
Instead priests were renewing their promises in their own presbyteries and homes.
The ministry of the 47 priests witnessing on the frontline in the face of Covid-19 was “inspirational and deeply appreciated,” the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin stated.
He said that the past few weeks had brought all of us to our knees in many respects. “We know someone struggling on a ventilator with the coronavirus. They are in our prayers.”
Requiem Masses were being celebrated within very restricted norms and so the bereaved remained very much in the Bishop’s prayers.
“We haven’t seen family in weeks, so we must discern new ways of keeping in touch, keeping connected, we hold them also in our prayers.”
The Covid-19 crisis had in a matter of a couple of weeks turned upside-down the economy, personal lives and our understanding of ‘normal’.
“We are waving through perspex and glass at grandparents and vulnerable loved ones currently cocooned. We are working remotely if we are lucky to still hold onto our job. We are staying at home and abiding by regulations akin to a curfew or a lockdown. These seem like war times and the battle is a virus we are trying to control. The country has in the past couple of weeks shifted gear completely from cruising in fifth to a struggling second.”
Bishop Nulty underlined that the Church is no different because it is embedded in society and the community.
“While Church buildings are regretfully closed in order to protect the vulnerable and those most at risk from contracting this virulent virus, our pastoral and spiritual outreach continues unabated in every parish and across the diocese,” he said.
Referring to the great need for a tangible sign of God’s presence, he said the oils blessed and consecrated at the Chrism Mass offered that very tangible reality.
“While the circumstances are very different than any of us might have hoped for or wished for, our world, our church, our diocese needs these oils more than ever at this time and the ministry that accompanies them.”
The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin said that prayer continues – maybe better than ever before – in homes, aided and assisted by the use of modern technology.
“I hear feedback with all kinds of messages; someone followed a ceremony on Facebook Live, someone else never knew their parish had a webcam until they logged on and someone was moved enough to send an email to say how much that Holy Hour meant to them.”
Admitting that he could have postponed the Chrism celebration and rescheduled it for the summer months, when the pandemic had passed, Bishop Nulty added, “But who knows when that will be?”
He said he firmly believed there had to be a reimagining of the church, of the liturgy, of the community, maybe even of faith to make some sense of the vista before him of empty pews, empty seats, empty churches, and an empty cathedral.
“And yet they aren’t empty, and the Cathedral isn’t empty, anything but. You are here, each one of you digitally connected with the Church you love, the faith you profess, the diocese you are so proud of,” he said.
“Perhaps we have always found it a challenge to be present as a Church on the edges, on the margins, in the field hospitals, and here it falls right into our lap, in this Holy Week 2020.”
Dr Nulty added, “Why delay blessing the oil of the sick when so many are in need of anointing and healing this very night?”
He suggested that the Church community will be richer for how it faced the Covid-19 days.
“When we can shake someone’s hand again, let us appreciate more that encounter; when we can meet up with someone, let’s have better conversations and when our parks and playgrounds reopen let’s make those moments last. A crisis brings out the best and we are seeing the best in people every day, very conscious of those serving on our frontlines, particularly healthcare teams and their families.”
Live streaming of Masses and Services from churches in Ireland and the UK can be found here: http://churchservices.tv